Set against the rich history of bullshit whimsical celebrity baby names – Pilot Inspektor Lee, Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette, Apple Martin – Elsie Otter is actually quite sensi-
No. Hang on. It seems I’ve been brainwashed into thinking Elsie Otter is an acceptable name. Which it definitely isn’t. At least, not for a girl. But I’ll get to that later.
In the least surprising move since my cat ate some cat food, self-appointed Queen of Quirkiness Zooey Deschanel and whoever her schmuck husband is have named their baby daughter after a literal woodland critter.
I’ve resented Deschanel since around 2007, when she hijacked awkwardness. As someone genuinely uncomfortable in her own skin, I can be certain – in an age of uncertainty – of one thing: having enormous eyes and playing the ukulele doesn’t make you awkward.
As someone who was bullied at school for (among so many other things) being shit at sports, someone who dances like a reanimated cadaver and someone who has been told, on more than one occasion, to “shut up” during sex, I feel I’ve earned the authority to judge who/what can be considered dorky. And Deschanel is to genuine dorkiness what Starbucks is to coffee. That is to say, she’s ruined it with caramel.
But, contrary to all of this, I think “Otter” is an absolutely brilliant name. For a boy.
When parents inflict a sickeningly cutesy name on a daughter they’re (unwittingly, I hope) defining her by her cuteness – something that a massive chunk of society was going to do even before they gave her a name that would look stupid on a Bichon Frisé. Either they’re blind to the fact that women have a hard enough time being taken seriously without being called Marshmallow Twinkletits, or they don’t plan on taking their daughter seriously themselves.
So, if idiot parents feel a biological imperative to name their children after “aDORKable” things, I think they should go for it. My one caveat is that they bestow these names on their sons rather than their daughters. Because naming a boy “Otter” may not be revolutionary, but it would definitely take one white, middle-class man down a notch.
For the most part, girls seem to bear the brunt of the stupid name tradition. Just look at the nowadays “consciously uncoupled” Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin. Their son, Moses, is named after a Biblical badass who parted an entire sea and led thousands of slaves to freedom. Their daughter is named after some fruit.
When naming my siblings and me, my parents’ one rule was that, on the off chance any of us wanted to be prime minister or something, our names wouldn’t hold us back. And, aged 26 and still living with them, boy have I made the most of my apparently PM-worthy name.
But yeah, had I been named Kitten Banana Froot Loop the Fourth, I’m pretty certain I’d be living in a cardboard box and eating ants.
I’m all for freedom of choice though, and if, say, a Gertrude reaches 18 and decides she’d rather be called Princess Butter, then all power to her. Had someone chosen the name “Princess Butter” for her, when she was too busy working out how to keep her head up to grapple with concepts like sexism, things may have turned out badly. And by “badly”, I mean she resents her butter-obsessed parents throughout her teens, then pulls a Zowie Bowie and changes her name to Duncan. Then becomes an accountant just to piss off her delightfully whimsically-minded parents who were banking on her becoming a fire eater or something butter-related. Come to think of it, things turned out OK for this particular fictional absurdly-named woman.
Meanwhile, her brother – a Clive, probably – becomes the billionaire CEO of a multinational corporation that makes baby oil by literally pressing babies. Maybe he should’ve been named Princess Butter.